German-Turkish relations will remain sour in 2022

The permanent decline of democracy in Turkey and the continuing disagreements between Ankara and Berlin will remain foreign policy challenges in the new period, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported on Saturday.

Relations with Turkey constitute one of the most challenging foreign policy topics of this year for the new German government.

The new German government considers Turkey as a “difficult but necessary partner”, DW said.

Conflicts in Syria, the eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Afghanistan are expected to occupy politicians of both countries this year. The Russia-Ukraine crisis and the tension in Bosnia and Herzegovina are also expected to come to the fore, it added.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has adopted a distant and cautious stance towards Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since he took office in December, as did U.S. President Joe Biden, according to DW.

Germany is planning to pursue a foreign policy based on values and to focus on democracy and human rights issues, Green Party co-chair Annalena Baerbock said in a statement soon after taking office as foreign minister, DW said.

The cautious stance of the new government on Turkey has been inspired by the fact that the EU and the United States have adopted a common stance in their policies towards the country and avoided any engagements with Erdoğan that could lead to further crises, it said.

The main goal of the new approach is to redirect Turkey towards its Western allies and a democratic rule of law.

Scholz did not make a statement on relations with Turkey after he took office, waiting 11 days to have a phone call with Erdoğan. Germany’s new leader spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the same day.

Erdoğan congratulated Scholz and the leaders discussed bilateral and foreign policy issues, agreeing to continue close consultations, DW cited a German government spokesperson as saying.

Political circles in Berlin, closely monitoring relations between Germany and Turkey, maintain that the two countries share similar views and concerns over a series of international issues, but disagreements continue, DW said.

Domestic political developments in Turkey have an impact on bilateral relations since both the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens are concerned with Ankara’s record on democracy and human rights. Both government partners have politicians of Turkish origin and others who follow developments.

However, like his predecessor Angela Merkel, Scholz is expected to give priority to the issue of Syrian refugees when dealing with Turkey, DW noted.

Having taken in approximately one million Syrian refugees since 2015, Germany remains concerned about another refugee influx and wants to continue its cooperation with Turkey to prevent it.

The two countries are expected to continue a discussion to better implement the EU-Turkey refugee agreement in the coming year. Furthermore, Germany will continue to financially support projects for refugees in Turkey through various international aid organisations.

Another important issue German politicians are concerned over is Erdoğan's polarising rhetoric, which fuels tensions with European countries, DW said.

Berlin has urged Ankara several times to recognise decisions by the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a founding member, and the European Court of Human Rights. In line with the top court’s rulings, Germany demands the release of Turkish philanthropist and human rights advocate Osman Kavala.

Human rights defender Kavala was detained on Oct. 19, 2017, on his way back from a meeting for a project in southeastern Gaziantep, in partnership with Germany’s Goethe Institut. He was arrested on Nov. 1 and accused of funding 2013’s Gezi Protests, which the prosecutor said were “an insurgency aimed to eliminate the government and prevent it from fulfilling its duties, where all terrorist organisations actively participated”.

Germany no longer considers Erdoğan’s Turkey as part of the European family, but as a neighbour of the EU. The country maintains a cold attitude towards Ankara, except in the areas where it is compelled to cooperate, DW concluded.

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